‘Wonderland’, ACMI, Melbourne

There was plenty to explore in Wonderland, an exhibition, developed by ACMI, that takes you sequentially through the story of Alice in Wonderland while simultaneously providing a history of the portrayal of Alice in Wonderland in illustration and film. The exhibition designers clearly had lots of fun playing around with doors and corridors, scale and mirrors and they really did create an exhibition that encouraged visitors to explore and play. At the same time all this visitor engagement did give the exhibition a bit of a frantic feeling and I felt a bit claustrophobic in the early sections where visitors got a little too bunched up in the tiny rooms and corridor. All the visitor activity also made it difficult to take in the material that was on display because you were distracted by the jostling and exploring going on around you.

I found the idea of the exhibition following the story of Alice in Wonderland refreshing but it did take me a bit of time to work it out and as a visitor this organisational structure made it difficult to piece together the history that was also being presented in the exhibition. Rather than walking out with a clear sense of how representations of Alice changed over time I ended up with fragmented snapshots and I was not totally clear what the exhibition was trying to tell me. It was retelling the story through different mediums which was great but what else? One of my favourite sections of the exhibition was the multimedia arc at the end. This arc of screens has been used in a number of exhibitions but I really liked the playful way the different clips were put together to show how influential Alice in Wonderland has been in popular culture and perhaps in the end this is also a visitor take away from the exhibition – an understanding of the ongoing reinvention and relevance of this story in our lives.

Visited: 13 May 2018

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